Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Recapping Week One of 2017

The first weekend of Division II baseball in 2017 is in the books, and we got off to some pretty fun starts across the country. Okay, maybe not across the country, but at least south of the Mason/Dixon line and west of the Mississippi. The usual suspects did not falter, your defending national champions are rolling, and a number of teams around the country are still chomping at the bit to get started over the next month. Let's take a look at what unfolded in the first weekend of action.

As noted before, we will be recapping the PerfectGame Top 25 rankings each week, and also previewing them, along with any other interesting notes we stumble across in the process of collecting results and schedules.

Here is how it unfolded for the preseason PG Top 25 rankings:

1. Tampa (3-0): The Spartans began their year as they do most seasons, rolling through competition. Tampa swept Bentley in a three-game series over the weekend (8-0, 8-1, 5-4), leading to Garrett Cave earning SSC Pitcher of the Week honors after throwing four shutout innings with 10 strikeouts and two hits allowed. Tampa is now 17-1 all time against Bentley.

2. Nova Southeastern (5-0): In case it hasn't been noticed yet, the SSC got off to a heck of a start this year. The defending national champions were no exception, sweeping through their competition. They began the year with an 11-2 drubbing of Tusculum, followed that up with a doubleheader sweep of Alabama-Huntsville (6-1 and 9-1), and then picked up a hard-fought, extra innings, walk-off victory against Barry (8-7). Jeremy Vasquez hit .500 in 12 at-bats with 2 HR and 5 RBI, including the walk-off winner against Barry, and Brandon Gomez came out raking, hitting .357 with 3 HR and 7 RBI in the four games. Breaking news! NSU has now defeated NAIA St. Thomas, 4-2, in their final game of this recap. Quite a start to the year for the champs.

3. West Florida (0-3): Our first trip-up in the preseason rankings comes from the Argos, who were swept at home by Florida Southern. The Mocs took down UWF 5-2, 5-3, and 7-3. The Argos were held to a .196 batting average on the weekend and a team ERA of 5.33, so there's nowhere to go but up, at least!

4. Cal Poly Pomona (2-3): The Broncos got off to a 2-1 start on Thursday and Friday against UC Colorado Springs, dropping game one 4-3 before picking up 8-0 and 4-3 victories, but they proceeded to get swept, 5-3 and 5-4, in a doubleheader against Concordia on Saturday. It doesn't get much easier this week when they take on Point Loma. In the 8-0 victory, CPP one-hit UCCS, as Kyle Dohy struck out seven and walked one over 4.1 hitless innings.

5. USC Aiken (3-0): In a rare opening-weekend Top 25 match-up, the Pacers swept #25 Lincoln Memorial in a three-game series, 9-0, 8-1, 10-9 (11 inn.). Connor Riley threw 5.0 one-hit innings with seven strikeouts in game one, USCA hit .358 as a team, and the Pacers had a team ERA of 1.86 on the weekend. A dominating performance all the way around to begin the season.

6. Lubbock Christian (4-0): The Chaps rolled to victory in all four games at the DII Air Hogs Classic at the site of this year's national finals. LCU defeated East Central 6-5 (12 inn.), Missouri Western (5-2), Newman (7-5) and Southern Arkansas (7-6) in a bunch of competitive games. Nicklaus Hooper struck out 7 batters in only 3.1 innings of work in relief on the weekend, with 2 saves.

7. Minnesota State (0-0): The Mavericks won't hit the field until February 25th, when they take on Minnesota-Crookston at U.S. Bank Stadium.

8. Colorado Mesa (0-0): Another set of Mavericks, this time from the RMAC, will have one more open weekend before beginning their season on Feb. 10-12 with a series at Dixie State.

9. Dixie State (4-0): The Trailblazers are looking to take the next step this season, and they got off to a great start, sweeping Cal State San Bernardino in a four-game series over the weekend, 9-6, 13-6, 5-3 and 10-1. Dixie State hit .326 as a team and had a .409 on-base percentage to get started on their season in a big way.

10. Belmont Abbey (3-2): Abbey started the year with a 6-1 loss to Lenoir-Rhyne and a 10-0 loss to Newberry at home, but rebounded for a doubleheader sweep on the road at Newberry (5-2 and 12-1), then beat Catawba on Tuesday, 12-9. They had five different players knock in four runs already, with Nick Beinlich hitting .368 with 2 HR, 4 RBI, a .455 OBP and an .842 slugging percentage.

11. Point Loma (2-2): The Sea Lions split a four-game series with West region contender Chico State. Chico took the first two games of the weekend, 7-5 and 6-3, before PLNU rebounded for 4-3 and 4-1 victories in a Saturday doubleheader. Stephen Young was spectacular in the series capper, striking out eight and allowing only four hits in a complete game win.

12. North Georgia (3-0): UNG raked all weekend, sweeping Carson-Newman, 6-4, 13-4 and 17-0 over the weekend. Trevor Sams (.700, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 1.400 SLG, .714 OBP) and Connor Hoover (.615, 2 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 1.000 SLG, .667 OBP) were both out of their minds to lead the Nighthawks to their proficient weekend.

13. Emporia State (2-1): The Hornets picked up a very good series victory over CSU Pueblo, winning 8-0 and 27-14 (!) to begin the weekend, before falling 4-3 in the final game of the series. Seth Holman threw 6.0 shutout innings with three hits allowed and four strikeouts in the opener, while BJ Dean was the main recipient in the football game, going 4-for-5 with five runs, seven RBI (!) and two walks in the game with two home runs.

14. Franklin Pierce (0-0): As one of the dreaded non-Southern or non-Western teams, the Ravens will have to wait until the weekend of Feb. 23-26 for their first competition, when they head to Myrtle Beach, S.C. for the Ripken Experience against Felician, Queens (N.Y.), Wilmington and LIU Post.

15. Southern Indiana (0-0): Just like the last few seasons, the Screaming Eagles will begin their season down South against Tampa, when they take on the Spartans in a three game series, Feb. 17-19.

16. Mercyhurst (0-0): The Lakeshow will have a couple more weeks to think quietly among themselves, as they begin their season on Feb. 18 with a doubleheader against West Virginia State.

17. St. Mary's (2-1): The Rattlers took a series victory at home over Arkansas Tech, falling in game one of the weekend, 10-6, before picking up 17-7 and 5-2 victories in the final two games of the weekend. Donnie Perez had the big bat over the weekend, hitting .571 with three doubles, seven RBI, and a .786 slugging percentage as the team hit .361.

18. Millersville (3-0): The Marauders picked up where they left off in 2016, sweeping Winston-Salem State in convincing fashion, 8-1, 11-9 and 9-2. The bats weren't necessarily hot, but the arms were, as both Cordell Shannon and David Manasek threw 6.0 shutout innings in each of their respective starts en route to a team ERA of 1.86 on the weekend.

19. Wayne State (Mich.) (0-0): One of the GLIAC favorites, the Warriors will begin their season in Nashville on Feb. 17 and 18 with three games against Trevecca Nazarene.

20. Florida Tech (3-1): The Panthers won the first three games of the weekend over Mississippi College (6-4, 8-3, 11-2) before falling 9-4 in the final game of the weekend. FIT had six different players knock in at least three runs over the series, but it was the pitchers that ruled the weekend. Tyler Deel (7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 7 K), Ty Cohen (5.2 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 9 K) and Andrew Marzheuser (4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 K) dominated.

21. Angelo State (2-1): In an attempt to get back to the national finals, the Rams won the opening series against Regis, dropping the first game, 5-1, before picking up 5-3 and 11-9 victories to finish off the weekend.

22. Augustana (1-4): Augie found out the hard way how tough the trip to the middle of the Pacific Ocean is, picking up only one victory out at Hawaii Pacific in a five-game set. The Vikings won the fourth game of the series, 11-9, but dropped all others (3-2, 6-1, 5-3, 3-0). In the final game of the series, HPU's Blake Flint was rolling, throwing 8.0 shutout innings with three hits allowed and six strikeouts. In the 6-1 contest, HPU's Gunter threw a complete game with four hits allowed, one run, and 10 strikeouts.

23. Azusa Pacific (2-1): The Cougars took 2-of-3 from Cal State Monterey Bay, book ending the series with 8-0 and 8-6 victories around a 13-12 loss. APU crushed six home runs in the three games, and their top five hitters of the weekend all hit over .333. Billy Oxford had the best start of the weekend, throwing 5.0 shutout innings in the 8-0 victory.

24. Henderson State (3-0): HSU crushed it at the UAFS tournament, going 3-0 with a pair of victories over Pittsburg State (4-2 and 9-2) around a victory over host Arkansas-Fort Smith, 4-0. The mound was where all the magic happened, as they turned in a team ERA of exactly 1.00. Chris Hunt threw 6.0 shutout innings with two hits allowed and nine strikeouts in the 4-0 victory, while Luke Tebbetts (7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 K) and Austin Cross (5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 K) were both efficient, as well.

25. Lincoln Memorial (1-3): The Railsplitters couldn't get over the USC Aiken hump, dropping all three games to the #5 team in the rankings (9-0, 8-1, 10-9 (11 inn.)). They rebounded on Monday with a 19-5 win over outmatched Claflin, as pitcher Timmy Wages had one of the best games this year you'll see out of a player. Wages got the victory, throwing 5.0 innings with seven strikeouts, and also drove in eight (!!!) runs. Wages hit a two-run bomb in the first inning and a three-run double in the fourth inning, but got credited with three RBI when he should not have in the second inning, as he reached on a dropped fly ball by the center fielder with the bases loaded, allowing all three runs to score. Should have been the third out of the inning, no RBI, no sacrifice fly, no anything. But alas.

We will have a new post up Thursday night previewing the weekend for the newest PerfectGame Top 25 rankings.

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